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The Purple Shoes

by Christina St. Clair

The pretty purple shoes were placed neatly side by side, pointing towards the concrete retaining wall, with their toes nestled against the steps that led to the upper tier of the parking lot.

Perhaps they had been hidden so no one would steal them.

Perhaps their bare-footed owner had strolled across the tarmac, away from the warm sea towards the heavy wet marshes on the other side of the road and might return. Her feet must have burned on the hot, steaming surface. But perhaps it had been a rainy day when she walked away and did not come back.

Perhaps the shoes had fallen out of a car, and a kind stranger laid them gently as if next to a bed, ready for pretty feet to fill them in the morning.

Perhaps the owner might yet retrieve them, place them tenderly on her feet, and dance along the white sand beach.

Perhaps they had not been lost or mislaid but were a hopeful symbol placed in a safe place by a woman who longed to return and hoped she might renew her time in the sun, a time spent with her lover in the beginning throes of a grand passion.

Humid with craving, she wanted to languish on silk sheets on a queen bed and stroll naked into the living room overlooking the sea. She wanted to draw him onto the wicker couch, their passionate rhythm matching the pounding of the ocean, high and fast, then gentle, lapping the beach beyond the dunes where the sea turtles nest.

Sadly, though, perhaps their love did not deepen but was the white foam of the surf rolling, splashing, surging and then gone.

* * *

Yet even as the shoes fade in the bitter rains of winter, the cool air biting into their soles, the winds splattering salt spray onto their shiny surfaces, they have not blown away from their nook in the parking lot where I have found them year after year.

I wish my feet might once again slip into new purple shoes with bright yellow beads. But I am no Cinderella longing for a prince. My pleasure is to watch children building sandcastles. I love to throw a ball for my dog, the one I named Leo because his shaggy fur makes him look like a lion. He chases and chases, and I toss and toss.

Now, cracked and weathered, the purple shoes are of no practical use and do not look pretty any more. Their beads, like the old people who lie by the pool in the sun, trying to warm their ancient legs in the heat, no longer sparkle. They are crusty with sand, worn by wind.

Yet the shoes have not crumbled, somehow remaining intact.

* * *

At last she returns to the beach, bronzed by years of sunshine and sorrow. Quietly she shakes the sand from the shoes and slips them onto her feet, smaller now than they used to be, her toes shriveled, her arches fallen. With a grin on her face, she puts two fingers in her mouth and whistles a long high note.

A shaggy brown pony trots obediently to her side. She leads him around the cars, across the parking lot, onto the beach. Slender and fearless, she grips his mane and easily swings her leg across his bare back. She hugs his neck, her legs gripping his furry sides.

Like a woman flipping her tresses in the wind, the pony tosses his head, flinging his mane into the air. They dash away in a gallop through waves and tidal pools.

I can hear her whooping with joy at the arcs of spray flying across the packed sand. Suddenly she stands on the pony’s sturdy back and, like a ballerina, toes pointed, she pirouettes.

For a moment I see her glowing purple shoes sparkle in the sunlight. The pony, as if urged by unearthly spurs, plunges into the waves. His whinny mixes with her echoing laughter.

Again she sits astride, her back straight, her hands gently touching his mane as they go farther and farther out to sea: he swimming; she, sitting elegantly upon his back.

At last I watch them disappear beneath the foam. I wait for her to resurface. Finally, a wave laps over my feet, and I see the purple shoes floating towards me.

Copyright © 2015 by Christina St. Clair

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